Computer problems delay primary election results until early Wednesday morning


Primary election day in Switzerland County got off to an ominous start early Tuesday morning, as heavy rains and overcast skies greeted voters and poll workers.

The day got brighter as morning turned to afternoon, with the sun splashing across much of the county; but as the 6 p.m. deadline to close the polling places the skies again darkened and the temperature fell.

And that seemed to be a forerunner to the problems that were about to beset the Switzerland County Election team.

Throughout the day, voters in all of the polling places were given the option of voting either with a traditional hand-marked ballot; or they could use the county’s new computerized voting machines — commonly called “touch machines”.

When the clerk’s office tried to merge the two types of votes once the polls closed, the system stalled and the tallies were stuck inside the machines.

For hours clerk Ginger Peters and a representative from the computer company tried various ways to get the information out of the machines. Candidates and observers did have five of the county’s 12 precincts out and tallied, but with the two biggest precincts: Jefferson I and Jefferson II, still stuck inside the machine; it looked as though it was going to be a long night.

And it was.

But the problem was not unique to Switzerland County. Counties and cities all over the state were experiencing the same problems. Vote totals were received from other counties, only to be corrected moments later.

Here in Switzerland County, eyes were also focused on the vote in Jefferson County, because of the three-way race for the Democratic nomination for prosecuting attorney. Chad Lewis, Jason Pattison, and Kristen Vandewater were all locked up in a tight race for the nomination — and since Switzerland County shares a prosecutor with Jefferson County, the vote totals from both places would determine the winner.

At one point late in the evening, word from Jefferson County showed Kristen Vandewater with 1,504 votes; Chad Lewis with 1,468 votes; and Jason Pattison with 1,463 votes. With just a 41 vote margin between three candidates, if those figures proved to be true, the winner could be determined by the vote totals here.

But that total couldn’t be obtained until the information came out of the machines.

Jefferson County chose to continue its count on Wednesday, and as of press time no winner had been declared in the prosecutor’s race.

After some discussion of closing down for the night and awaiting a technician with the proper supplies to arrive sometime on Wednesday — it was noted that Ripley County had the same system, and they had finished for the night.

A quick call to Ripley County clerk Ginger Bradford resulted in true cooperation, as she agreed to allow someone to come to Versailles and get the needed equipment off of her system and bring it back to Vevay so that the totals could be run.

Switzerland County chief deputy Roy Leap made the late night run; and once he returned shortly after midnight, the “click” of a running computer program in the clerk’s office brought cheers from weary workers.

Just before 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning, unofficial vote totals were printed and distributed, and a long day was finally over.


Although totals were in hand, County Clerk Ginger Peters and fellow election board members Walter Cotton and Tim Swango were quick to point out that the election will not be official for at least 13 days.

That allows any absentee ballots that were mailed to arrive; and it also allows for “provisional ballots” that were cast on Tuesday to be considered.

Because of the new state law requiring that a voter show a photo ID before being allowed to vote; some citizens going to the polls without that ID found themselves having to cast provisional ballots. The election board will now go through those ballots and determine if they will or will not be counted.

Provisional ballots could also be cast for other reasons; but the clerk’s office reported on Wednesday that there are less than 20 provisional ballots to be considered, and those may or may not effect the outcome of the election.